Agriculture

Soil will absorb less atmospheric carbon than expected this century, study finds
September 22, 2016 05:23 PM - University of California, Irvine via ScienceDaily

By adding highly accurate radiocarbon dating of soil to standard Earth system models, environmental scientists from the University of California, Irvine and other institutions have learned a dirty little secret: The ground will absorb far less atmospheric carbon dioxide this century than previously thought.

Researchers used carbon-14 data from 157 sample sites around the world to determine that current soil carbon is about 3,100 years old -- rather than the 450 years stipulated by many Earth system models.

"This work indicates that soils have a weaker capacity to soak up carbon than we have been assuming over the past few decades," said UCI Chancellor's Professor of Earth system science James Randerson, senior author of a new study on the subject to be published in the journal Science. "It means we have to be even more proactive in finding ways to cut emissions of fossil fuels to limit the magnitude and impacts of climate warming."

Soil management may help stabilize maize yield in the face of climate change
September 20, 2016 04:42 PM - University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences via ScienceDaily

How will we feed our growing population in the face of an increasingly extreme climate? Many experts suggest the answer lies in breeding novel crop varieties that can withstand the increases in drought, heat, and extreme rainfall events predicted in the not-too-distant future. But breeding is only part of the equation, according to new research from the University of Illinois and several collaborating institutions across the Midwestern U.S.

"It might not be necessary to put all the stress of climate adaptation and mitigation on new varieties. Instead, if we can manage agroecosystems more appropriately, we can buffer some of the effects of climate instability," says U of I and USDA Agricultural Research Service ecologist Adam Davis.

Monsanto and Bayer: food and agriculture just took a turn for the worst
September 19, 2016 07:08 AM - Colin Todhunter, The Ecologist

Bayer's $66 billion takeover of Monsanto represents another big click on the ratchet of corporate power over farming and food, writes Colin Todhunter. With the 'big six' of global agribusiness now set to turn into the 'even bigger three', farmers and consumers are facing more GMOs and pesticides, less choice, and deeper price gouging. Agroecology has never looked more attractive.

Climate change has less impact on drought than previously expected
August 31, 2016 03:47 PM - University of California – Irvine via ScienceDaily

As a multiyear drought grinds on in the Southwestern United States, many wonder about the impact of global climate change on more frequent and longer dry spells. As humans emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, how will water supply for people, farms, and forests be affected?

A new study from the University of California, Irvine and the University of Washington shows that water conserved by plants under high CO2 conditions compensates for much of the effect of warmer temperatures, retaining more water on land than predicted in commonly used drought assessments.

According to the study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the implications of plants needing less water with more CO2 in the environment changes assumptions of climate change impacts on agriculture, water resources, wildfire risk, and plant growth.

Sustainable alternative to methyl bromide for tomato production
August 25, 2016 10:49 AM - American Society for Horticultural Science via EurekAlert!

Following the phase out of methyl bromide, scientists continue to explore effective, viable, and more sustainable options for vegetable crop production. Among nonchemical alternatives, anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD) is considered to be one of the most promising methods. ASD has been determined to be effective with a range of crops and environments against several soilborne fungal and bacterial plant diseases, plant-parasitic nematodes, and weeds.

Researchers discover a special power in wheat
August 17, 2016 05:15 PM - University of Queensland via EurekAlert!

A new photosynthesis discovery at The University of Queensland may help breed faster-growing wheat crops that are better adapted to hotter, drier climates.

A research team led by Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation researcher Professor Robert Henry has today published a paper in Scientific Reports, showing that photosynthesis occurs in wheat seeds as well as in plant leaves.

"This discovery turns half a century of plant biology on its head," Professor Henry said.

"Wheat covers more of the earth than any other crop, so the ramifications of this discovery could be huge. It may lead to better, faster-growing, better-yielding wheat crops in geographical areas where wheat currently cannot be grown."

 

Flowering meadows benefit humankind
August 17, 2016 03:16 PM - Technical University of Munich (TUM) via EurekAlert!

The more it swarms, crawls and flies the better it is for humans. This is the finding of a study published in "Nature". More than 60 researchers from a number of universities were involved, including the Technical University of Munich, the Institute of Plant Sciences at the University of Bern and the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Frankfurt. A diverse ecosystem populated by many species from all levels of the food chain provides higher levels of ecosystem services, the team reports. Even rather unpopular insects and invisible soil-dwelling organisms are important in maintaining a wide range of ecosystem services. The results underline the necessity of maintaining species-rich ecosystems for the good of humanity.

Sewage sludge could make great sustainable fertilizer
August 15, 2016 01:50 PM - Frontiers in Nutrition via EurekAlert!

Ever thought of putting sewage on your plants? Scientists say thermally conditioned sewage sludge serves as an excellent fertilizer to improve soil properties. This was recently published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Nutrition. The major advantage over commercial fertilizers? Sustainable re-use of essential and finite phosphorus resources.

Phosphorus is a key nutrient for all living beings. When deficient in the diet, it severely compromises human health, and when deficient in agriculture, it restricts crop productivity. Without phosphorus, there can be no food production.

Undergraduates uncover mechanism tied to plant height
August 8, 2016 05:05 PM - Purdue University via EurekAlert!

Dwarfed plants add color and a diversity of architectures to landscapes and gardens, and a Purdue University undergraduate class discovered a key mechanism that leads to their small stature. Graduate student Norman Best led an undergraduate plant physiology class in an exercise that identified a mutation in a dwarf variety of sunflower, called Sunspot, that keeps the plant short. The eight Purdue students, along with scientists that supported the work, published their results in the Journal of the American Society of Horticultural Science.

Do eco-friendly wines taste better?
August 3, 2016 07:26 AM - UCLA

t’s time to toast environmentally friendly grapes. A new UCLA study shows that eco-certified wine tastes better — and making the choice even easier, earlier research shows it’s often cheaper, too.

Though consumers remain reluctant to spend more on wine from organic grapes, the new study from UCLA researchers shows that in blind taste-tests professional wine reviewers give eco-certified wines higher ratings than regular wines.

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